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Picked by Techconnect's Editors's previous roundup of FireWire hard drives (see FireWire Hard Drives, October 2000) revealed that what's under the hood does indeed matter most when evaluating performance. This proved to be the case once again when we tested six new drives and discovered exactly which ones are the fastest of the pack.

We looked at La Cie's full-height 45GB and 75GB Cobalt drives, as well as their 10GB PocketDrive, EZQuest's 60GB Cobra, Western Digital's 45GB FireWire External Hard Drive, and the monster of the bunch, Maxtor's 80GB 1394 External Storage Hard Drive. Among these drives, there are two enclosure types that stand out from the rest. At just under 13 ounces, LaCie's PocketDrive isn't quite as small as the tiny portable FireWire drive made by VST, but its size is still a major convenience to PowerBook users who are constantly on the go. Like the rest of the drives in this roundup, the PocketDrive also includes an external power connector, which the VST drive lacks. The other striking enclosure belonged to EZQuest's 60GB Cobra, the slickest-looking drive yet. Its smooth silver case has rounded corners and edges, and it is about the same size as the other full-height cases.

Both LaCie and EZQuest use 7200 RPM IBM Deskstar 75GXP Ultra ATA/100 drives in their full-height drives, which means that these drives will have no problem taking advantage of FireWire's bandwidth. Although Maxtor's 80GB model and Western Digital use drives with a slower rotational speed, 5,400 RPM, the Maxtor performed well in our tests.

First, we evaluated all the drives in a standard 100MB file-transfer speed test. Maxtor's 80GB drive, along with the full-height, IBM-based drives from LaCie and EZQuest, outperformed the others. Next, in our disk optimization test, which gives an indication of seek speed, IBM-based drives clearly won out again. This time, however, the Maxtor drive couldn't keep up, and instead fell back with the pack alongside the Western Digital drive and La Cie's PocketDrive, which did a rather admirable job considering its modest rotational speed.

Out of all the software packages included with these drives, Maxtor's suite of utilities proved to be the most useful. It includes formatting software as well as applications to test speed, to test connection integrity, and to set up a RAID (using another Maxtor drive). La Cie's Silverlining Pro was easy to navigate and use -- we had our drives formatted in a few minutes. Unlike VST's tiny portable drive, La Cie's PocketDrive was bootable using its USB interface. Finally, EZQuest and Western Digital include software based on El Gato's Disk Control utility, which helps to make the setup effortless.

Company Product Mouse Rating List Price Contact Pros Cons
EZQuest Cobra 60GB FireWire Hard Drive $639 714/694-0031 All-around fastest performer; sleek case. More expensive than competition.
La Cie USA FireWire/IEEE 1394 75GB Hard Drive $749 503/844-4500 All-around fastest performer. More expensive than competition.
La Cie USA FireWire/IEEE 1394 45GB Hard Drive $439 503/844-4500 All-around fastest performer. More expensive than competition.
La Cie USA PocketDrive 10GB $399 503/844-4500 Portable; external power connector; USB-compatible. Expensive.
Maxtor Corporation 1394 External Storage FireWire 80GB Hard Drive $399.95 408/432-1700 Best price per gigabyte; fast performer. None significant.
Western Digital FireWire External 45GB Hard Drive $279 949-932-5000 Good price per gigabyte. Not as fast as IBM-based drives.
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